#1: Photo by William Kallay

#2: [With viewfinder] - "Jurassic Park III"

 

   


SHELLY JOHNSON   ASC

 

Born: c. 1958, Pasadena, Calif., USA.

Education: Blair International Baccalaureate School [formerly Blair High School], Pasadena; Pasadena Art Center College of Design [1977-80].

Career: "I grew up and went to school in Pasadena, California. My father started in the mailroom at ABC and eventually worked his way up to directing live news in Los Angeles. He eventually directed network special variety shows, including the Peggy Fleming shows and Perry Como Christmas shows. A lot of them were shot on location around the United States or in Europe. Sometimes I'd help him shoot some of the scenics. […] I grew up thinking that I wanted to be a cinematographer. I was excited by the idea of using light to tell stories. That's all I ever wanted to do was shoot movies. When I was about 13 or 14, Bill Fraker shot a film at the house across the street. I didn't know who he was, but I went over to watch the shoot. I remember being very impressed by his sense of humor, his professionalism and how he treated his crew and how they treated him. He was the first real Hollywood cinematographer I saw at work. When I got out of school, I gaffed a bit, assisted a little bit and was shooting industrial films, documentaries, commercials and other small jobs. I shot sales films for medical companies promoting new products and techniques, small dramatic religious films for a company, which distributed them to churches, and some variety shows. I got a lot of jobs through people I knew in film school. It's very important to make friends because they're the ones who are going to want to bring people they know along when they get a job. We had our own revolving group of guys who all did different jobs depending on who was shooting and who was gaffing. […] I met Allen Daviau when I was a student, and asked if he would be interested in seeing a student film that I shot. He agreed. To give it a period look, we used a color flashing method where we double-exposed the film. I think he was impressed with the idea of doing something different and encouraged me to stay in touch with him. Later, Allen had a friend who was doing a feature, and asked if I wanted to interview for it. The project was a film version of the Richard Wright novel 'Native Son'. I interviewed and didn't get it, but it was great taking the script and preparing an approach I could present to the director. When they had two weeks of shooting left, the work visa of the cinematographer they hired expired and he had to leave. They called me in a panic, asking if I could finish the film. The shoot was 10 miles from my house, so I jumped in the car and went over there. I got started doing some lower budget films as a result of 'Native Son' and got more narrative credits. […] I had stayed away from series television, but decided to go ahead with one for DreamWorks about supernatural events and people with certain psychic gifts. The show was called 'The Others'. We really took it to far extremes where we shot dream sequences underwater and other crazy things. It was a mid-season replacement, so we shot twelve episodes. About two weeks after we wrapped, I got a call from Larry Franco, the producer of 'Jurassic Park III'. Steven Spielberg had recommended that he talk to me about possibly doing the film. I went and talked to Larry and director Joe Johnston. It was a big break for me and a big chance on their part, but I guess after talking to me, they felt I was ready to do a movie like that." [From interview on the KODAK OnFilm website.]

Member of the ASC since 2000.

Awards: ASC TV Award nom [1989] for 'Everybody's Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure'; ASC TV Award nom [1997] for '[Louisa May Alcott's] The Inheritance'; ASC TV Award nom [2000] for 'The Others' [ep #5 '1112' dir by Bill Condon].


'Jurassic Park III' [2000]: 'Two weeks after finishing work on 'The Others', [Shelly] Johnson received a call from producer Larry Franco, asking whether he had any interest in meeting director Joe Johnston. "I read the script for the first time while I was sitting outside Joe's office," recalls Johnson. "As I finished reading, I just stared off into space. This would be working at a scale that I had never attempted. I'd done a lot of television and eight or nine features, including a fairly large second-unit on 'True Lies', but... then the film's UPM passed by and recognized my thousand yard stare and laughed 'Shelly, you look like you just read the script.' That kind of reassured me. I wasn't the only one who reacted in this way! There would be a lot of human moments within complex action sequences containing animatronics dinosaurs as well as complicated CG elements that seemed very overwhelming.

First off, Johnson got several pieces of advice. First he called upon Allen Daviau, who did extraordinary amounts of day exteriors in an on-stage jungle for 'Congo'. In watching the High-Def version of that picture, Daviau showed Johnson what he felt worked and what didn't. "We went over everything in detail and I saw how he handled the exteriors by his use of color, misters and other tools." Johnson learned from Daviau that a careful use of misters is key in creating depth. "By adding misters - highly filtered water through emitters to create a curtain of vapor - I could get a curtain that would effect only the background. This way, people could walk out of the 'depth' and create the illusion of a deeper jungle."

The next piece of advice Johnson sought was from 'The Lost World: Jurassic Park' cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. "He told me that 'The creatures will give you everything you want. You need to concentrate on giving them a world that they can live in. Find an interesting way to look at their world and it will work.' I realized that since a lot of the movie is character-based, we would lose the audience if the camera was focusing on the Hollywood shot and not on what the characters were seeing."

Taking their counsel to heart, Johnson struck off on his own. 'Jurassic Park III' was to be shot in the 1:85 format, which was easier for effects as well as keeping the feeling of dinosaurs and vegetation existing together. He utilized Panavision cameras - two Platinum's and a Panavised ARRI III - with two VistaVision cameras for effects shots. His lenses were all Primos, with a lot of time spent on the 4-to-1 zoom. "When Joe starts rolling, you have to keep rolling, and just make a few little adjustments without cutting. That's why there's the zoom. We would hide the fact that we were on the zoom in the moves."

The cinematographer capitalized on three Kodak stocks: EXR 5248 [100 ASA] for the Hawaii sequences; a mix of Vision 200T [5274] and Vision 500T [5279] in the massive jungle sets; and Vision 200T for the remaining footage. "I didn't want to shoot wide open with the big creatures, so I went for the faster stock here where I felt the need."

"The film feels as though it is set in a rotting environment. There is no new growth - that is to say there are no young green colors. The plants on the island are mature and in a state of decay. So colors were important. Ed Verreaux and I worked with greens supervisor Danny Ondrieko on keeping 'young green' out of the vegetation and out of the lighting. This is a decaying island." On the jungle set, Stan Winston and crew managed to fine-tune the dinosaurs' paint job accordingly.

The overall idea was to present a terrifying environment where - with movement, color, contrast and composition - the audience would feel as though the characters are constantly doomed.' [From article by Pauline Rogers on the ICG website.]


 

 FILMS

1986

Native Son [Jerrold Freedman] c; finished film, but cred as addph; ph: Thomas Burstyn

1986

Nightflyers/Night Flyers [T.C. Blake (= Robert Collector)] c

1986

Maid to Order [Amy Jones] c

1987

Jack's Back [Rowdy Herrington] c

1988

Judgement/Hitz [William Sachs] c

1990

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze [Michael Pressman] c; 2uc: Jon Kranhouse

1993

True Lies [James Cameron] s35/c; uncred snow unit ph; ph: Russell Carpenter; filmed 1993-94

1996

Amanda [Bobby Roth] p/c

 

[Far left] with dir Joe Johnston [2nd from right] - "Jurassic Park III"

 

2000

Jurassic Park III [Joe Johnston] 35mm (+ D-Cinema)/c; vfx ph: Martin Rosenberg; uwph: Michael Ferris; see above

2001

The Last Castle [Rod Lurie] p/c; 2uc: Jonathan Taylor

2002

Manhood [Bobby Roth] c; addph; ph: Steve Burns

2002

Hidalgo [Joe Johnston] p/c; 2uc: Kevin McKnight; aph: Hans Bjerno

2004

Sky High [Mike Mitchell] s35/c; 2uc: Kevin McKnight

2006

One Missed Call [Eric Valette] 35mm (+ D-Cinema)/c; reshoots ph (Los Angeles); ph: Glen MacPherson

2007

The House Bunny/I Know What Boys Like [Fred Wolf] HD (Genesis)-to-35mm scope/c; 2uc: Kevin McKnight

2008

Fired Up! [Will Gluck] scheduled as doph, but film was ph by Thomas E. Ackerman

2008

The Wolfman [Joe Johnston] s35-to-35mm (+ D-Cinema)/c; 2uc: Fraser Taggert; splinter unit ph (+ miniature ph): Peter Talbot; vfx ph: James D. Kelly; based on scrpl by Curt Siodmak ('The Wolf Man', 1941, George Waggner; ph: Joseph Valentine)

2008

Jurassic Park IV/Jurassic World [Joe Johnston] pre-production; in development since 2002; replaced ph Dean Cundey; prod ph by John Schwartzman and dir by Colin Trevorrow in 2014

2009

The Big Bang [Tony Krantz] scope/c; aph: Steve Koster

2010

Captain America: The First Avenger [Joe Johnston] HD (ARRI ALEXA + Genesis + Canon EOS 5D Mark II)+s35-to-35mm scope (+ D-Cinema [also 3-D version])/c; 2uc (+ 2ud): Jonathan Taylor; ph splinter unit: Peter Talbot; ph splinter unit Los Angeles: Dino Parks; aph: John Marzano

2011

The Expendables 2 [Simon West] s35 (+ D-Cinema)/c; 2uc: Attila Szalay, Harvey Harrison & Anton Bakarski; aph: John Marzano; filmed 2011-12

2012

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters [Thor Freudenthal] s35 (+ D-Cinema [also 3-D version])/c; 2uc: Roger Vernon; aph: David Norris & Hans Bjerno

2013

Wild Card/Heat [Simon West] HD (ARRI ALEXA Plus 4:3/p)-to-D-Cinema (scope)/c; 2uc: Alan Caudillo

2014

Man Down [Dito Montiel] c

2015

The Blob [Simon West] pre-production; remake of film (1957, Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr.; ph: Thomas Spalding)

2015

A Family Man/The Headhunter's Calling [Mark Williams] HD (ARRI ALEXA/p)/c

2016

The Hurricane Heist/Category 5 [Rob Cohen] HD (ARRI ALEXA XT Plus/Master Scope & Mini/Master Scope)-to-D-Cinema (scope)/c

2016

Geostorm [Dean Devlin] RED Epic Dragon-to-D-Cinema (scope [also 3-D version])/c; addph (reshoots in December); ph (2014-15): Roberto Schaefer

 

 TELEVISION

1985

The Grand Tour [Sterling Johnson] doc series

1987

Red River [Richard Michaels] tvm

1988

Unholy Matrimony/Deadly Vows [Jerrold Freedman] tvm

1989

Love and Betrayal/Throw Away Wives [Richard Michaels] tvm

1989

Everybody's Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure [Mel Damski] tvm

1989

Grand Slam/Dead Trouble [Bill L. Norton] pilot/87m; also released on video

1990

The Girl Who Came Between Them/Victim of Innocence [Mel Damski] tvm

1990

Malcolm Takes a Shot [Mario Van Peebles] tvm/60m; a 'CBS Schoolbreak Special'

1990

[HBO's] Tales from the Crypt [ep #19 'Korman's Kalamity' dir by Rowdy Herrington] 93-part series, 1989-1996; 2nd season, 1990

1990

Joshua's Heart [Michael Pressman] tvm

1990

Angel of Death/Intimate Terror: Angel of Death [Bill L. Norton] tvm

1991

Keeper of the City [Bobby Roth] tvm; aph: David B. Nowell

1991

Something to Live for: The Alison Gertz Story/Fatal Love [Tom McLoughlin] tvm

1991

Back to the Streets of San Francisco [Mel Damski] tvm; 2uc: Philip Lee

1991

Grave Secrets: The Legacy of Hilltop Drive [John Patterson] tvm/b&w-c

1992

Relentless: Mind of a Killer [John Patterson] pilot; for NBC-tv

1992

The Fire Next Time [Tom McLoughlin] tvm; 2uc: Philip Lee

1992

Judgment Day: The John List Story [Bobby Roth] tvm

1993

The Yarn Princess/More Than a Miracle [Tom McLoughlin] tvm

1993

Ride with the Wind [Bobby Roth] tvm; addph: Dan Kneece

1993

Murder of Innocence [Tom McLoughlin] tvm

1993

Nick's Game [Robert Singer] tvm

1994

Nowhere to Hide [Bobby Roth] tvm

1994

Frogmen [Robert Singer] pilot; 2uc: Don McCuaig; unaired (confiscated by the LAPD)

1994

In the Line of Duty: Kidnapped [Bobby Roth] tvm

1994

Trick of the Eye/Primal Secrets [Ed Kaplan] tvm

1994

Naomi & Wynonna: Love Can Build a Bridge [Bobby Roth] 2-part tvm

1995

Charlie Grace [pilot dir by Robert Singer] 9-part series; other ph: Richard M. Rawlings Jr.

1995

Alien Nation: Body and Soul [Kenneth Johnson] tvm

1995

Alien Nation: Millennium [Kenneth Johnson] tvm

1996

Blue Rodeo [Peter Werner] tvm; 2uc: Philip Lee

1996

Tell Me No Secrets [Bobby Roth] tvm

1997

[Louisa May Alcott's] The Inheritance [Bobby Roth] tvm

1997

Quicksilver Highway [Mick Garris] tvm; 2 seg ('Chattery Teeth' & 'The Body Politic')

1997

[Stephen King's] The Shining [Mick Garris] 3-part miniseries/b&w-c; 2uc: Don Devine

1997

The Devil's Child [Bobby Roth] tvm

1997

Host/Virtual Obsession [Mick Garris] tvm; addph: Ian Fox

1997

[Anne Tyler's] Saint Maybe [Michael Pressman] tvm; ep #303 'Hallmark Hall of Fame'-series

1998

Durango/A Rose for Annie [Brent Shields] tvm; ep #306 'Hallmark Hall of Fame'-series

1998

Turks [pilot dir by Robert Singer + 7 ep dir by various] 13-part series, 1999; other ph: Brian J. Reynolds & Frank Byers

1999

A Season for Miracles [Michael Pressman] tvm; ep #308 'Hallmark Hall of Fame'-series

1999

Come On, Get Happy: The Partridge Family Story [David Burton Morris] tvm; 2uc: Michael A. Price

1999

The Others [pilot dir by Mick Garris + 12 ep dir by various] 13-part series, 2000; 2uc: Richard M. Rawlings Jr.

2009

The Wronged Man [Tom McLoughlin] tvm

2010

Gimme Shelter [Christopher Chulack] pilot/HD; for CBS-tv

2011

Smash [pilot dir by Michael Mayer] 32-part series/HD (ARRI ALEXA), 2012-13; 1st season, 2012 (15 ep); other ph: David Mullen

2012

Terminales [Steve Miner] pilot; 2uc: Scott Ressler; for ABC Family

2013

HR [Darren Star] pilot; for Lifetime-tv

2014

Sea of Fire [Allison Liddi-Brown] pilot; for ABC-tv

2014

Stitchers [pilot 'A Stitch in Time' dir by Steve Miner] series/HD (ARRI ALEXA), 2015-present; 1st season, 2015 (10 ep); for ABC Family

2014

Chasing Life [pilot dir by Steve Miner] 34-part series/HD (ARRI ALEXA), 2014-15; 1st season, 2014-15 (21 ep); for ABC Family

2014

Cocked [Jordan Vogt-Roberts] pilot/HD; addph: Roger Tonry; for Amazon Studios

2015

Lumen [Joe Johnston] pilot; for TNT-tv

2015

Blood & Oil [pilot dir by Jonas Pate] 10-part series/HD (ARRI ALEXA/p), 2015; other ph: Michael Barrett (#2-5) & John B. Aronson (#6-10)

2015

Falling Water [pilot 'Don't Tell Bill' dir by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo] series/HD (ARRI ALEXA), 2016-present; 1st season, 2016 (10 ep); other ph: Richard Rutkowski; for USA Network

2016

Training Day [Danny Cannon (replaced Antoine Fuqua)] pilot; for CBS-tv